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News Digest

PUC Oversight: Panacea or New Problem?
Fortnightly Magazine - October 1 2000

all areas of operation." The PSC sought access to any information needed for it "to understand the interrelationships among software, market design, tariff provisions, operating rules, and bids."

The PSC said that it would require such material as bid data, equipment availability and performance, other operational data, and details about software logic, and that "all steps will be taken" to have the information given "trade secret" status.

"The pricing situation has hindered our retail access efforts and we have concerns about retail customers' rates as well as long term system reliability," the PSC said. "We also recognize an interest in expeditiously reporting instances of market power abuse." The PSC relied on its authorization to examine records and documents from any "electric corporation" in order to require access to the ISO information. .

Illinois Prices. Weighted average prices for firm capacity and energy in Illinois in the year 2001 are projected at $29.82 per megawatt-hour off-peak in the summer and $43.22 during peak summer periods in a report issued Aug. 15 by Peter A. Hoffman, of Deloitte & Touche, the "neutral fact finder" designated under the state's restructuring law. The same report forecasts non-summer firm prices at $25.97 off-peak and $34.88 at peak times.


California Price Wars

Relief for San Diego. In a 3-2 vote the California PUC adopted a bill stabilization plan to mitigate skyrocketing electric rates for customers of San Diego Gas & Electric Co., guaranteeing that residential customers will pay no more than $68 per month for electricity through January 2001 and $75 per month for the rest of 2001. However, residential customers will pay market rates for any electric use over 500 kilowatt-hour per month.

Commercial customers using 1,500 kilowatt-hour or less of electricity per month (about 70 percent), as well as school districts, will pay no more than $220 per month through Jan. 31, 2001, and no more than $240 per month through the end of 2001.

The decision was made retroactive to June 1; SDG&E was to issue billing credits for any June, July, and August bills exceeding the new caps.

The 3-2 vote was split along party lines, with three commissioners appointed by former Gov. Pete Wilson approving the moderate plan. PUC chair Loretta Lynch and commissioner Carl Wood, appointed by Gov. Gray Davis, preferred a tougher proposal that would have capped summer electric rates at $53 and allowed rates to be set even lower in the winter. .

Federal Emergency Measures. Wholesale electricity price spikes and the resulting skyrocketing consumer electric bills in California received President Clinton's attention on Aug. 23, when he announced three steps "to help ease the burden," including the allocation of $2.6 million from the Department of Health and Human Services in Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds, as well as the directive to the FERC to expedite its investigation of the wholesale power markets. Thirdly, Clinton directed the Small Business Administration "to step up their efforts" to inform small businesses about SBA loans to help them cope with high bills. Clinton used the opportunity to reiterate the call for